You can’t eat lawn

Been pondering the whole experience of front yard food gardening. Living in your front yard at all is still a bit ‘not done’ in Adelaide, the land of sheer curtains, roller doors and roller shutters. We like our privacy, it seems; our lawns and roses. And the only legitimate excuse for actually spending time out in the front yard sometimes seems to be either (a) washing the car on the lawn (because the only thing that should be neater than the lawn is, of course, the car) or (b) preparing the property for sale by planting… you guessed it… a lawn and roses.

When we moved in here, the house had little other than a lawn front and back. We chose this house for two main reasons: (a) proximity to the railway line, and (b) its northern aspect to the living areas. It had potential to become a half-decent passive solar house with minimal associated transport emissions. But in winter, only the front yard receives full sun. It follows that if we were to grow food all year round, much of it would have to happen out the front. Funny that nearly four years later I still find myself justifying it like this.

There was a moment, long, long ago when Andrew actually delighted in mowing the front lawn. That was because he had just bought a rechargeable electric mower and was living the dream of renewable-powered lawnmowing. The mower lasted about as long as my resistance to leftover desserts, but the front lawn was always destined to be replaced by edible gardens: fruit trees first (so they could get their roots down while we got on with other things), then raised garden beds and in-ground plots for vegies. Here are a few of our weapons in the War on Lawn:

The Tank

The Cavalry

Birnam Wood (The Infantry)

In the background there you might have spotted a patch of fresh woodchips. These were the beginning of the end for our feral grass – the remains of the lawn. With the help of a few other keen local gardeners, we sheet-mulched the whole yard with newspapers, recycled cardboard (thank you very much Dan Murphy’s for bundling those beer cartons so neatly!) and any mulch we could get our hands on. Luckily, a few local tree loppers found the railway verge a handy spot to dump their mulch so we were able to score a few free trailerloads of the stuff. Although a bit of couch or kikuyu breaks through from time to time and the soursobs have established their underground network, it’s not too hard to nab the weeds as they pop up and the soil has certainly improved thanks to better water retention since the mulching.

Now all of a sudden we are starting to experience back yard living, thanks to a sudden spate of paving and pizza oven building which have rendered the rear of our place a lot more liveable. Gosh, it is possible to garden in private, and without the interruptions of several chatty passers-by each day.

But what would I miss out on if I didn’t front-yard garden for a week (apart from the obvious vegetables and fruit)?

  • The interactions between my young son and all the children and dogs who walk by each day
  • Chats with people who really care about trees and know more about keeping them healthy than I do
  • Meeting a mum who was out geocaching, on her kids’ instructions to find a hidden ceramic frog at our intersection!
  • Seeing the ladybirds that have come to live on the eggplant bushes (and maybe devour the mites?)
  • The lovely warm, protected climate – 3 degrees warmer and a lot less windy than the south-facing back yard.
  • Visits from the friendly magpies (they’re not back yard folk)
  • Talking to the fruit fly monitoring man
  • Opportunities to give away surplus produce (some eggplant and golden beetroot this week)
  • A chance to put our experiments out there for others to observe and laugh at – or even try…

Yes, front-yard gardening is no longer just a necessity. It’s a luxury I don’t want to do without.

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One Response to You can’t eat lawn

  1. Di says:

    Well I totally agree with your comments above. I’ve been a long time proponent of the FGFP (Front Garden Food Patch). Since our house faces the same way as yours and nearly the same depth from the road, I squashed as many deciduous fruit trees into it as I could manage. 99% have survived though only the black mulberry is getting humungous…oh…er….and the thorn-less honey locust with massive syringe-like protrusions on it in many places also. I planted them as a green wall to buffer the north heat and the street reflection…………which leads me to another point and that’s about the directionality of a dwelling. I’ve fought vehemently about not shading the east and west of a house from the sun. As I look at new houses going up around me I lament at the thought of ever moving into a dwelling windowless east or west. Aesthetically there is nothing more glorious – all year – than inside teaming winter sun and summer speckled shaded light from vines and trees. I adore the east and west light. It’s the north that that bothers me. It’s so intense and destructive unless it’s used for a lolling winter veranda cuppa corner or to absorb heat for transferring to the house. Then there’s the southern aspect……..another grossly misunderstood aspect. It has the best and most even indirect light for sewing, reading etc when the direct north sun makes you squint even inside in winter. I love all aspects and they’re all uniquely different and make my house a home – viva the detached abode.

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